Jesus, The Avenger of Blood

by Lambert Dolphin


Will The Real Jesus Please Appear?

Back in the days of the Jesus Movement which followed the Hippie Movement in the late '60's many in the younger generation were disenfranchised with the Establishment. There was a great desire to set up a counter-culture fresh new approach to Christian life. The following cartoon appeared in 1967 in the Los Angeles Free Press in 1967 questioning the world's stereotypical misconceptions of Jesus.

Ever generation needs to rediscover who the historical Jesus really is. We must not only know Jesus Christ personally as Lord and Master, we must know the whole Bible and take it seriously. We are subject to it's authority as well as to the authority of the Apostles and the Lord. (See The Authority of the Word).

But culturally speaking every generation of Christians must strip off the old varnish, the overlays of tradition, and the faulty views held by the church in previous generations. Of course we must not take very seriously, nor value very highly [if at all] the views of the liberal self-appointed "Jesus Scholars" who would revise the Gospels for us based on their own latest findings of modern scholarship. These "experts" are for the most part not Christians at all, but false teachers the Apostles us warned about. (Jude, 2 Peter 2). Some years ago a well-known Bible teacher remarked, "We need to remember that Jesus Christ was not crucified on an altar below a stained glass window, between two candles, but naked on a cruel-Roman cross in the hot sun on a main thoroughfare outside of Jerusalem."

I was struck when Ray Stedman's commentary on the Gospel of John was published in 1993, because it seemed to me Ray had done just such a job of varnish removal, revealing a much more fiery, powerful, compassionate Jesus than I had previously known. (See especially, The Stranger from Galilee)

Let us look at some of the contrasting glimpses of the Person of Jesus as they are to be found in the Bible.


The Pale Galilean: Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild?

Clearly, the first advent of the Lord Jesus Christ was very different from what might have been expected all taking into account all of the Old and New Testament pictures of His coming, *
...Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And he who sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has bidden me." (John 12:44-50)
Many examples in the Gospels are similar to the account of Jesus meeting a rich tax collector named Zacchaeus. Jesus' dealings with the woman at the well in Samaria who had had five husbands (John 4) immediately comes to mind, or his compassion for a woman caught in the act of adultery, (John 8). Gentleness, compassion, mercy and caring for outcasts and the black sheep of the culture were typical of his actions. Jesus' meeting with Zacchaeus took place near the end of his public ministry.
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, "He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner." And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:1-10)
Jesus raised the dead, healed the sick, comforted the poor and released countless men, women and children from guilt, shame, sickness and the influence of demons,
...Jesus declared, "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:15-30)
Jesus did not hesitate for a moment in responding to the cries of ten lepers,
And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well." (Luke 17:12-19)
But Jesus was neither gentle, meek, mild, nor soft-spoken in his public rebukes delivered in scathing white-hot anger to the religious leaders in Jerusalem,

"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

"Woe to you, blind guides, who say, `If any one swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.' You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, `If any one swears by the altar, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.' You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and he who swears by the temple, swears by it and by him who dwells in it; and he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. You blind Pharisee! first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, saying, `If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation. (Matthew 23:13-35)
There are also many hints and references in the Gospels that strongly suggest that the Second Coming of Jesus will be very different from the First,
[Jesus] went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.

He said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. `Put this money to work,' he said, `until I come back.' "But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, `We don't want this man to be our king.' "He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. "The first one came and said, `Sir, your mina has earned ten more.' "`Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. `Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' "The second came and said, `Sir, your mina has earned five more.' "His master answered, `You take charge of five cities.'

"Then another servant came and said, `Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.' "His master replied, `I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?' "Then he said to those standing by, `Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.' "`Sir,' they said, `he already has ten!'

"He replied, `I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them---bring them here and kill them in front of me.'" (Luke 19:11-27 NIV)


Jesus Speaks in the Synagogue at Nazareth

Following his baptism and temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 3:13-4:11), Jesus conducted much of his early public ministry from Capernaum, at the Northern end of the Sea of Galilee. He was at first warmly received by crowds there, but in a visit to his home town of Nazareth his remarks in the synagogue outraged the citizenry. This story occurs early in Luke's gospel--but actually Luke does not write in chronological order. A Harmony of the Gospels will show that about a full year had passed since His baptism--encompassing the events in the first four chapters of John's gospel. The message of Jesus at Nazareth is pivotal and most remarkable:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."

And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" And he said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, `Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.'" And he said, "Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away. (Luke 4:16-30)

In reading from the prophet Isaiah, Jesus selected a passage from Chapter 61 which actually reads,
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor,

---and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion---to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. Aliens shall stand and feed your flocks, foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; but you shall be called the priests of the LORD, men shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their riches you shall glory. Instead of your shame you shall have a double portion, instead of dishonor you shall rejoice in your lot; therefore in your land you shall possess a double portion; yours shall be everlasting joy. For I the LORD love justice, I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed. (61:1-9)
Clearly Jesus was delineating and describing the character of His first advent and the fundamental change that would take place in his mode of action and priorities when He came the second time.


God of Vengeance, God of Furious Wrath

A similar picture of God's vengeance and violent intervention in human affairs when Jesus comes again is found in Isaiah 34,
Draw near, O nations, to hear, and hearken, O peoples! Let the earth listen, and all that fills it; the world, and all that comes from it. For the LORD is enraged against all the nations, and furious against all their host, he has doomed them, has given them over for slaughter. Their slain shall be cast out, and the stench of their corpses shall rise; the mountains shall flow with their blood. All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll. All their host shall fall, as leaves fall from the vine, like leaves falling from the fig tree. For my sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; behold, it descends for judgment upon Edom, upon the people I have doomed. The LORD has a sword; it is sated with blood, it is gorged with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams. For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah, a great slaughter in the land of Edom. Wild oxen shall fall with them, and young steers with the mighty bulls. Their land shall be soaked with blood, and their soil made rich with fat. For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.

And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch, and her soil into brimstone; her land shall become burning pitch. Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up for ever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever. But the hawk and the porcupine shall possess it, the owl and the raven shall dwell in it. He shall stretch the line of confusion over it, and the plummet of chaos over its nobles. They shall name it No Kingdom There, and all its princes shall be nothing. Thorns shall grow over its strongholds, nettles and thistles in its fortresses. It shall be the haunt of jackals, an abode for ostriches. And wild beasts shall meet with hyenas, the satyr shall cry to his fellow; yea, there shall the night hag alight, and find for herself a resting place. There shall the owl nest and lay and hatch and gather her young in her shadow; yea, there shall the kites be gathered, each one with her mate. Seek and read from the book of the LORD: Not one of these shall be missing; none shall be without her mate. For the mouth of the LORD has commanded, and his Spirit has gathered them. He has cast the lot for them, his hand has portioned it out to them with the line; they shall possess it for ever, from generation to generation they shall dwell in it.

A parallel passage in the New Testament shows clearly that Jesus will come again both to save (his people) and to judge and destroy his enemies,
We are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren, as is fitting, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering---since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:3-12).

The unloosed fury and wrath of a holy God shows clearly in the writings of the prophet Zephaniah,
The word of the LORD which came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah. I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth," says the LORD. "I will sweep away man and beast; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. I will overthrow the wicked; I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth," says the LORD. "I will stretch out my hand against Judah, and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal and the name of the idolatrous priests; those who bow down on the roofs to the host of the heavens; those who bow down and swear to the LORD and yet swear by Milcom; those who have turned back from following the LORD, who do not seek the LORD or inquire of him."

Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is at hand; the LORD has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests. And on the day of the LORD'S sacrifice --"I will punish the officials and the king's sons and all who array themselves in foreign attire. On that day I will punish every one who leaps over the threshold, and those who fill their master's house with violence and fraud." "On that day," says the LORD, "a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate, a wail from the Second Quarter, a loud crash from the hills.

Wail, O inhabitants of the Mortar! For all the traders are no more; all who weigh out silver are cut off. At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are thickening upon their lees, those who say in their hearts, `The LORD will not do good, nor will he do ill.' Their goods shall be plundered, and their houses laid waste. Though they build houses, they shall not inhabit them; though they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them."

The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter, the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. I will bring distress on men, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the LORD. In the fire of his jealous wrath, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full, yea, sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth. (Zephaniah 1)
Introducing the subject of soon-coming judgment on ancient Ninevah the Prophet Nahum wrote of terrible destruction on all sides, but safety and refuge for all of God's own people---in Ninevah, in Israel or elsewhere.
The LORD is a jealous God and avenging, the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and of great might, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry, he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither, the bloom of Lebanon fades. The mountains quake before him, the hills melt; the earth is laid waste before him, the world and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken asunder by him.

The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.

But with an overflowing flood he will make a full end of his adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. What do you plot against the LORD? He will make a full end; he will not take vengeance twice on his foes. Like entangled thorns they are consumed, like dry stubble. Did one not come out from you, who plotted evil against the LORD, and counseled villainy? Thus says the LORD, "Though they be strong and many, they will be cut off and pass away. Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more. And now I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds asunder." The LORD has given commandment about you: "No more shall your name be perpetuated; from the house of your gods I will cut off the graven image and the molten image. I will make your grave, for you are vile."

Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good tidings, who proclaims peace! Keep your feasts, O Judah, fulfill your vows, for never again shall the wicked come against you, he is utterly cut off. (Nahum 1:2-15)


The Cities of Refuge

Cain, who murdered his brother Abel, deserved immediate punishment for his crime, if not immediate death. He feared not only God's justice, but more than God he feared vengeance from another member of his family. To our surprise we learn in Genesis 4 that God protected Cain for the rest of his life from such familial retribution! In spite of this amazing protection, and in spite of God's offer of help and salvation, Cain apparently never took advantage of this temporary reprieve---nor did any of his descendants as far as we know. The godly respondents to the grace of God before the Flood seem to have all been in the line of Seth which led eventually to Noah. That God is reluctant and slow to judge is a one of the main themes of the Lamentations of Jeremiah.

A beautiful picture of God's longsuffering with mankind in ancient Israel is found in the provision by the Lord of six special Cities of Refuge where those who had killed someone, or were accused of killing another person, might flee for temporary safety. The fugitive could remain there until the death of the current high priest. Only those guilty of what we would call "murder in the second degree" were granted safe haven. Deliberate murder had to be punished by the death of the murderer. In this case the murderer was to be put to death by the "avenger of blood"---the nearest male relative of the deceased. (For details see Reference Notes)

In his fine study of the Cities of Refuge and related topics, Chuck Missler calls attention to the fact that the death of Jesus was in fact second degree murder. He bases this conclusion on one of the last words of Jesus on the cross, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) Thus Jesus is the Christian's City of Refuge---and Jesus is our Great High Priest, whose death releases us from the blood-guilt of sin.


The Go-el, or Kinsman Redeemer

The Book of Ruth (see Ruth: The Romance of Redemption) is a beautiful love story found in the Old Testament in which a foreign, (gentile) woman of Moab finds a home, an inheritance, a husband---and a place in the ancestral lineage leading to Jesus the Messiah. It also tells us in practical language the role of the Kinsman Redeemer in ancient Israel. The role of this relative was to redeem lost land and property and to protect the person and inheritance of the party in need of help. (For details see also the Reference Notes)

The Hebrew go-el gives us another magnificent type of Christ as our Redeemer, for He saves us totally, whether we are Jew or Gentile.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:8-14)

Peter the Apostle reminds us,
You know that you were ransomed (redeemed) from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake. Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (I Peter 1:18-21)


O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appear.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan's tyranny.
From depths of hell Thy people save. And give them victory o'er the grave.

O come Thou Day-spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here;
And drive away the shades of night, And pierce the clouds and bring us light!

O come Thou Key of David come, And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high. And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel! Shall come to thee, O Israel!

(Ancient Plain Song, Hymn from 12th Century)


Safety, Refuge, and Salvation Prior to the Flood


The ark of Noah, (The Hebrew word for ark is related to the Egyptian word db't, = "coffin"), was under construction, on dry land presumably far from water, for probably 120 years. Although Noah (who Peter calls "a preacher of righteousness") sought to persuade the people of the his generation to come into the ark and so be saved, none responded,
"...when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water." (1 Peter 3:20)
The ark is a beautiful picture of salvation by grace through faith. There was no other way to be saved from destruction in that day except by coming into the God's ark of refuge. The world was warned for 120 years of impending judgment. The ark had one door in the side. Later in history Jesus said,
"Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:7-11).

Noah's name means "comfort" or "rest," and looks ahead to the words of Jesus,
"Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."
The ark was likewise a coffin. Those who come into Christ by faith are identified with Him in his death, burial and resurrection. God called from within the ark inviting Noah and his family to enter in and find refuge.

Does God offer help to mankind in every generation? Definitely yes! On what basis? Always on the basis of the individual's faith (personal trust and reliance) in the living God. Does He take pleasure in destroying the creatures He has created. Definitely not,
The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
Ray C. Stedman writes concerning God's intervening judgment in human affairs,
"All through the Bible we see God's love is manifest to men and women everywhere in urging them to escape this judgment. God in love pleads with people, 'Do not go on to this end!' But ultimately he must judge those who refuse his offer of grace. He says, in effect, 'I love you and I can provide all you need. Therefore love me, and you will find the fulfillment your heart is looking for.' But many men and women say, 'No, I do not want that. I will take your gifts, I will take all the good things you provide, but I do not want you! Let me run my own life. Let me serve my own ends. Let me have my own kingdom.' To such, God ultimately says, 'All right, have it your way!'

"God has three choices: first, he can let rebellion go on forever and never judge it. In that case the terrible things that are happening on earth, all these distressing injustices, the cruelty, the anger, the hate, the malice, the sorrow, the hurt, the pain, the death that now prevails, must go on forever. God does not want that, and neither does man. Second, God can force men to obey him and control them as robots. But he will never do that because that means they cannot truly love him. Love cannot be forced. Therefore, third, the only choice God really has is that he must withdraw ultimately from those who refuse his love. He must let them have their own way forever. That results in the terrible torment of godlessness. If God is necessary to us, then to take him out of our lives is to plunge us into the most terrible sense of loneliness and abandonment that mankind can know. We have all experienced it to some small degree when we get what we want and then discover we do not want what we got! For that sense of bored emptiness to go on forever, is unspeakable torment." (Ray C. Stedman, The Time of Harvest, Discovery Paper No. 4206, March 18, 1990)


Jesus, the Avenger of Blood

If Jesus is typified by the Ark of Noah as a harbor in the year-long deluge which destroyed an entire civilization before the Flood, if Jesus is a City of Refuge for the manslayers and other sinners, if there is ultimate safety for all His children---who are "in Christ"---then what about those who are not "in Christ"---those who refuse His grace and mercy and insist on living out their natural lives on their own terms and according to their own authority? The New Testament calls such persons "lost." The Old Testament considers them the outsiders to the family and plan of God.

Being "lost" means ultimate separation from God. (See On Everlasting Destruction) But in addition it means there must be fair, and balanced, and even-handed final justice, and degrees of punishment for all those who have chosen external existence apart from God. (See The Judgment Seat of Christ)

The Avenger of Blood in ancient Israel, the nearest male relative, was responsible for protecting the property, liberty, and posterity of his next of kin, in addition to protecting their lives through the "avenging of blood." This Old Testament Type of the Avenger of Blood is also fulfilled, as might be expected, by Jesus Christ the Lord.
...God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. (2 Thessalonians 2:6-10)
As might be expected for a "next of kin," the coming Judge, the Jew named Jesus, will be especially zealous for the maltreatment of His own people, the Jews, down through history,
I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations, and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have given a boy for a harlot, and have sold a girl for wine, and have drunk it.

"What are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying me back for something? If you are paying me back, I will requite your deed upon your own head swiftly and speedily. For you have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried my rich treasures into your temples. You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, removing them far from their own border. But now I will stir them up from the place to which you have sold them, and I will requite your deed upon your own head. I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the sons of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a nation far off; for the LORD has spoken."

Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare war, stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near, let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, "I am a warrior." Hasten and come, all you nations round about, gather yourselves there.

Bring down thy warriors, O LORD.

Let the nations bestir themselves, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the nations round about. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the wine press is full. The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. And the LORD roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shake.

But the LORD is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel. (Joel 3:3-16)

If Jesus is the Avenger of Blood on behalf of millions of Jews who have suffered at the hands of Gentile oppressors and anti-semites, He is also the Judge of all the world.
The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. "Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:22-29)

A final question remains in considering Jesus as the Avenger of Blood for all mankind. Who avenges the innocent blood shed by the Savior of the World Himself? Who is Jesus' next-of-kin responsible for Jesus' own vindication and for just retribution against the guilty on His behalf? Surely it must be the heavenly Father of Jesus, the God of heaven and earth who gave His only-begotten, dearly-beloved son to make it possible for any one, or all, of us to be saved?

In the book of the Revelation both Jesus and God the Father are characterized as turning loose their great wrath against an unbelieving world,
When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale; the sky vanished like a scroll that is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the generals and the rich and the strong, and every one, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand before it?" (Revelation 6:12-17)

We have already seen in the typology of the Cities of Refuge and the Kinsman-Redeemer that all sinners, Jew or Gentile, who seek the forgiveness of God, based on the substitutionary death of Jesus, our Great High Priest---all these persons are released forever from all guilt for all their sins. So the final issue is, who among the unforgiven sinners of the world must face the final Avenger of Blood who will personally deal with the enormous problem of the bloodguilt of the shed blood of the innocent Lamb of God?

Responsibility for the death of Christ is clearly distributed throughout the world. All of us are guilty---all of us are responsible. But when Jesus stood in trial before Pilate...
...the chief priests and the elders persuaded the people to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas." Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said, "Let him be crucified." And he said, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified." So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves." And all the people answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" (Matthew 27:20-25)
Accountability for sin in the eyes of God is measured in proportion to light received and the amount of revelation given. Deliberate sin is more serious than inadvertent transgression.

Furthermore Israel was instructed by Moses about the defilement of the land which shed blood would bring, especially innocent blood.
You shall not thus pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and no expiation can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of him who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the LORD dwell in the midst of the people of Israel." (Numbers 35:33-34)
God's judgment on the whole world is inevitable and soon to fall on everyone. The Bible describes the final conflagration as including the most terrible of all world wars as being centered in the land of Israel. For the Jews it will be "The Time of Jacob's Trouble" spoken of by their prophets. Believing Jews will find salvation, safety and refuge (see The Coming Exile of Israel in Edom). The majority of Jews, the Bible predicts, will be destroyed in a terrible blood bath described in Revelation Chapter 14. (Most of the rest of mankind will not survive World War III either).

I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one
"like a son of man" with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his
hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him
who was sitting on the cloud, "Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap
has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." So he that was seated on the cloud
swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.
Ray C. Stedman gives a vivid exposition and commentary on these terrible time,
We have to ask, who is this one seated on the cloud "like a son of man," wearing a victor's crown and holding a sickle in his hand? There can hardly be any doubt, can there? It is the Lord Jesus. He himself had told his disciples in Matthew 13, in the parable of the wheat and the weeds, when the disciples in the parable asked the Lord, "Shall we pull up these weeds?" He said to them, "No, let both grow together until the harvest, and then I will tell the harvester, 'First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned, and then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'" Then he
interpreted that parable to the disciples, saying, "The harvest is the end of the age (the seven-year period to which we have come in this book), and the harvesters are the angels." This agrees exactly with what we have here. The angels announce that the time of harvest has come, and the words of Jesus then in Matthew 13 will be literally fulfilled. Let me read them to you:
"The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear."
These are very clear words from the lips of Jesus himself. Now there is still another scene of harvest. Verse 17:
Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, "Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth's vine, because its grapes are ripe." The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great
winepress of God's wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses' bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia [which is about180 miles].
Is this the same story of harvest twice-told? No. You will notice the first harvest is a harvest of wheat. It is cut with a sickle, and it is a separation of the true wheat from the false-looking wheat, the "darnel" is literally the word, the tares of the field. It looks like wheat, but it is not. The angels will separate the two. But this is clearly a grape harvest, a vintage harvest, and the vine in Scripture is always a symbol of Israel. ** The prophet Isaiah uses this symbol of Israel being brought as a vine out of Egypt and planted in a beautifully cared-for land by God himself. Psalm 80 refers to the same thing--Israel is described as a vine. At the Last Supper the Lord himself said, "I am the true vine and you are the branches," speaking of his Jewish disciples.

This is the symbol of Israel, and it is referring to the judgment of apostate Israel. Strangely enough, most of the nation of the Jews today do not believe their own Scriptures. Many of them are atheists. Many of them have denied the Word of God and the Old Testament, or that it applies to them as a special people at all. This therefore is the judgment of apostate Israel. It is called in Jeremiah 30, "the time of Jacob's trouble." Many scriptures describe it. It will be a time of warfare once again against Israel, the time of the invasion of the nation by great armies from the north.
Palestine is overrun. This is when the woman (who is true Israel) that we saw in chapter 12 flees and hides in the desert. But apostate Israel is destroyed, and Jerusalem is sacked and partially destroyed. You can read that in Zechariah 12 through 14.

The prophet Joel describes it in vivid language. Let me give you these words from his third chapter:
Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat [which means "God judges"], for there will I sit to judge all the nations on every side. Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow--so great is their wickedness."
Obviously this is the same scene as we have here.

Notice, by the way, in verse 20, the change from a symbol to the literal meaning. Grapes are thrown into the winepress (that is a symbol), but blood pours out--that is the literal meaning of wine; that is when wine symbolizes. When we take the Lord's Supper, wine symbolizes the blood of Christ for us. Blood covers the land for 180 miles, the length of Israel, in a terrible scene of judgment...

I must leave this now for the moment, but I want to remind you that beyond these scenes of judgment, beyond these terrible descriptions of what is to come upon the earth, beyond the blood, beyond the slaughter, beyond the darkness, beyond the heartache and the sorrow and the misery, when the land is covered with blood from end to end, there is coming a new day, a wonderful day, a time that the prophets have described. Beyond the time of Jacob's trouble is the time when Israel shall blossom like a rose, and like a vine spread its branches throughout the whole of the earth, and
their Messiah will reign amidst his people over the whole world. It is really the utopia that men have dreamed of for centuries. That is what God is working toward, and that is what will eventually come to pass.

I hope you are facing your own personal relationship to these things. God is always asking, "If you know that I am the One who is necessary to your very existence, then worship me. Give yourself to me." This is the choice we all must make. (from The Time of Harvest)


O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory. The LORD has made known his victory, he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD! Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity. (Psalm 98)

Jesus as He is now

...that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come; and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:17-23)
A.W. Tozer, late prophet-pastor at Moody Bible Church in Chicago, wrote these insightful words about 50 years ago,
"The teaching of the New Testament is that now, at this very moment, there is a Man in heaven appearing in the presence of God for us. He is as certainly a man as was Adam or Moses or Paul; he is a man glorified, but his glorification did not de-humanize him. Today he is a real man, of the race of mankind, bearing our lineaments and dimensions, a visible and audible man, whom any other man would recognize instantly as one of us.

"But more than this, he is the heir of all things, Lord of all lords, head of the church, firstborn of the new creation. He is the way to God, the life of the believer, the hope of Israel, and the high priest of every true worshiper. He holds the keys of death and hell, and stands as advocate and surety for everyone who believes on him in truth. Salvation comes not by accepting the finished work, or deciding for Christ; it comes by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole, living, victorious Lord who, as God and man, fought our fight and won it, accepted our debt as his own and paid it, took our sins and died under them, and rose again to set us free. This is the true Christ; nothing less will do."
The clearest description of Jesus---raised from the dead---ascended on high and now in heaven as Lord of the Universe and Great High Priest over all---is found in Revelation Chapter One. (For comments on the deep, rich symbolism in this passage see Stedman's Behind the Scenes of History:

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty... Then I [John the Apostle] turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; in his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (1:8-18)
When the Lord Jesus returns to earth---and all evidence suggests this long-awaited event will be soon---it will be in a very much more dramatic way than when he came the first time as a baby born to a young Jewish virgin in Bethlehem a few miles South of Jerusalem. Jesus described his second coming in the Olivet Discourse, a final discussion with his disciples of what the future held, just before his crucifixion,
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." (Matthew 24:29-30)
Zechariah also described this same event some 500 years earlier.

For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward. And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD your God will come, and all the holy ones with him. (Zechariah 14:2-5).
Finally, the aged Apostle John in exile on the Island of Patmos off the coast of what is now Turkey was privileged to have been given a great vision of the return of Christ near the end of the First Century.

Then I [John] saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11-16)


Jesus as the Believer's Refuge

More clearly than ever the New Testament reveals there is still today a place of refuge, one unique way, and but one and only one plan of salvation,
"Neither is there salvation in anyone else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. " (John 14:6)

"Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death...." Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." (John 8:51, 58)


Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible, hid from our eyes.
How blessed, how glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, Victorious, Thy great name we praise.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
All praise we would render, O help us to see
Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee!


Footnotes


* For contemporary Jewish (Israeli) perceptions of what their soon-coming Messiah will be like see Modern Jewish Beliefs Concerning the Coming Messiah by Rabbi Chaim Richman. Most Orthodox Jews believe, of course, that Jesus is not their true Messiah and that he [Messiah] has yet to come for the first time.

** The rousing American Civil War Hymn, Battle Hymn of the Republic, by Julia Ward Howe (c. 1861) has inspiring lyrics, but somewhat confused theology:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword.
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps,
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel, writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal.
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on."

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat,
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
O be swift, my soul, to answer Him, be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory is His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free!
While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave --
Our God is marching on!

Chorus:

Glory! glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on!


Background Reference Notes:

AVENGER. The RSV translation of the Hebrew participial forms of ga-al and naqam, and the Greek substantive ekdikas. Go'el is rendered by "avenger" only in the expression go'el haddam, "the avenger of blood." In Nu. 35:12 "blood" is omitted in the MT but found in the LXX and other versions. The go'el was the protector or defender of his family's interests. As the nearest male relative he was responsible for protecting the property (Lev. 25:25-34), liberty (vv. 35-54), and posterity (Ruth 4:5, 10; Dt. 25:5-10) of his next of kin, in addition to protecting their lives through the avenging of blood (Nu. 35:9-28; Dt. 19:4-10; Josh. 20:1-9 2 S. 4:7. 11).

The legislation giving the go'el both the right and responsibility to avenge his kinsman's blood distinguished two types of criminal bloodshed, "murder" and "manslaughter," both expressed by the same Hebrew word rasah, found in the sixth commandment (cf. Ex. 20:13). Whereas in the case of "murder" the go'el killed the offender (Nu. 35:19, 21; Dt. 19:12), in the case of "manslaughter" he could do so only if the offender left the assigned city of refuge prior to the death of the high priest (Nu. 35:12, 24f., 27; Dt. 19:6; Josh. 20:3, 5, 9). The human avenger of blood is used as a figure of Yahweh's role as go'el for His people in passages such as Isa. 49:26. The custom of avenging blood has not been limited to the ancient Hebrews.

In ancient times it was practiced by, among other nations, the Greeks; and in present times has been attested among the Arabians, Persians, and other Oriental peoples. In contrast to ga'al, naqam is the Hebrew equivalent of the Eng. "avenge" in the sense of "exact satisfaction for a wrong by punishing the wrongdoer." It occurs twice in the Psalms (Ps. 8:2 [MT 3]) and 44:16 [MT 17]) in connection with Israel's enemies as a hithpael (intensive reflexive) participle meaning "they that avenge themselves." Perhaps the poet is implying a contrast to Israel, who has Yahweh as his avenger. In Ps. 99:8 the qal participial form is used to denote Yahweh's vengeance against the misdeeds of His servants.

The Gk. E'kdikos describing the Lord (I Thess. 4:6) means "one who satisfies justice," i.e., by punishing the evildoer (cf. Rom. 13:4). (ISBE, 1979, Wm. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI). By Bruce K. Waltke


Scofield Reference Bible Notes: 1. (Isaiah 59 20) Redemption, kinsman type, Summary: The Rock or kinsman-redeemer, is a beautiful type of Christ. (1) The kinsman redemption was of persons and an inheritance (Lev.25:25,48; Gal.4:5; Eph. 1:7,11, 14). (2) The redeemer must be a kinsman (Lev. 25:48-49; Ruth 3:12-13, see v. 9, note; Gal.4:4; Heb 2:14-15). (3) The redeemer must be able to redeem (Ruth 4:4-6; Jer.50:34; Jn.10:11,18). (4) Redemption is effected by the goel paying the just demand in full (Lev.25:27; Gal.3:13; 1 Pet.1:18-19)... 2. (Isaiah 59:20) The time when the "Redeemer shall come to Zion" is fixed, relatively, by Rom. 11-23-29, as following the completion of the Church. This is also the order of the great dispensational passage, Acts 15:14-17. In both, the return of the Lord to Zion follows the outcalling of the Church. 2. (Isaiah 59:20:49)

The kinsman-redeemer. The word goel is used to indicate the redeemer---the one pays. The case of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 2:1; 3:10-18; 4:1-10) perfectly illustrates this beautiful type of Christ. Cities of Refuge: ( Numbers 35:6) Here in vv. 6, 9-28 the general command is given to set aside six cities of refuge, three on each side of the Jordan River (v. 14). In Dt. 4:41-43, Moses sets aside three cities east of the Jordan (Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan, v. 43) prior to the conquest of Canaan. Joshua 20 records the law of the cities of refuge and tells of the assignment by Joshua of three cities west of the river (Kedesh, Shechem, and Kiriath-arba, v. 7). Here, too, reassignment of the three cities on the other side of the Jordan is recorded (v. 8). The law of the cities of refuge is recounted in detail in Dt. 19:1-13, and they are alluded to in Ex. 21:13. The cities of refuge are illustrative of Christ sheltering the sinner from judgment (Rom. 8:1, 33-34; Heb. 6:17-20; cp. Ps. 46:1; 142:5).

REFUGE, CITIES OF [Heb. 'are hammiqlat]. Certain of the LEVlTICAL CITIES (Nu. 35:6-34, Josh. 21:13, 21, 27 32, 38;1 Ch. 6:57, 67 [MT 42, 52]) that were set apart to serve as places of asylum for the accidental manslayer; mentioned principally in Nu. 35:9-34; and Josh. 20:1-9 (cf. Ex. 21:12-14; Dt. 4:41-43;19:1-10). According to Josh. 20:7f., the six cities designated for this purpose in Joshua's lifetime were Kedesh, Shechem, Kiriath-arba (Hebron), Bezer, Ramoth-gilead, and Golan. After each tribe had been assigned its territorial allotment (Josh. 13-19), Joshua, at the command of God, designated the cities of refuge. They were fairly evenly distributed throughout Israel. West of the Jordan were Kedesh (Tell Qades), about 24 km. (15 mi.) N of the Sea of Galilee in the land of Naphtali; Shechem (Tell Balatah), 32 km. (20 mi.) W of the Jordan in the range called the hills of Ephraim (tribe of Ephraim); and Hebron (el-Khalil), about 30 km. (19 mi.) S of Jerusalem (tribe of Judah). East of the Jordan were Bezer (Umm el-'Amad'.) 13 km. (8 mi) NE of Medeba (tribe of Reuben); Ramoth-gilead (Tell Ramath), 40 km. (25 mi.) ESE of the Sea of Galilee (tribe of Gad); and Golan (Sahem el-Jolan?) in the highlands 32 km. (20 mi.) E of the Sea of Galilee (tribe of Manasseh).

Many peoples of the ancient Near East maintained certain places as asylums for fugitives accused of crimes; once the fugitive was within the sanctuary he could not be apprehended or punished, whether guilty or innocent. Israel also had places of asylum, but in the strict laws of the Pentateuch (cf. esp. Ex. 21:23-25) murder had to be punished by the death of the murderer (vv. 12, 14; Nu. 35:16 21). One who intentionally killed another person was to be put to death by the "avenger of blood" the nearest male relative of the deceased. Such retribution could not be negated by the payment of "blood money" to the relatives of the deceased in compensation for the murder (v. 31). A distinction was made, however, between the person who killed someone accidentally and the one who did so willfully. The cities of refuge were established for unintentional manslayers. To prevent the "avenger of blood" from taking vengeance upon the accused before the nature of the homicide could be established, the Israelites were commanded to give every assistance to the fugitive in his flight to one of the designated Cities (v. 25). Roads to these cities were to be properly maintained and signposted, and the location of each city was such that none was more than one day's journey from any point in the land of Israel (Dt. 19:3 cf. v. 6).

Apparently the altar of Yahweh was a place of asylum even before the establishment of the cities of refuge (Ex. 21:13f.). Cities were needed, however, as permanent places of refuge. In later times it appears that the fugitive was permitted to grasp the horns of the altar, and if the homicide was accidental he was granted safe passage to the nearest city of refuge (cf. I K. 1:50; 2:28-30). According to Nu. 35:24 the manslayer was then judged by the "congregation"; i.e., he was returned, under a protective escort provided by the city, to the place from which he came, and tribal elders unrelated to either the deceased or the accused were to set up an investigative tribunal to establish the nature of the homicide.

The intentional murderer was to be delivered into the hands of the "avenger of blood," even from the altar itself (Ex. 21:14; cf. I K. 2:28-34), but if the death was accidental, the accused was to be returned to one of the cities of refuge (Nu. 35:25). The manslayer had to reside in that city until the natural death of the high priest (v. 28; it is unclear whether this refers to the leading priest of Israel or merely of the city), which was possibly viewed as expiation for the accidental death (cf. T.B. Makkoth llb). If the manslayer went beyond the city's boundary before the high priest's death, the avenger of blood could kill him without being guilty of murder(vv.26f). This system was designed to avoid the possibility of an endless "blood feud" between families after someone was killed. It was only during the united kingdom period that all six cities were under Israelite control. Only Shechem and Hebron had continuous Hebrew control until their destruction in 722 and 587 B.C. respectively. (ISBE, 1979, Wm. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI). By S. G. DECLAISSE-WALFORD.

REDEEMER; REDEMPTION

I. In the OT: The main OT terms associated with redemption include Heb. ga'al ("redeem," "act as kinsman"), pada ("buy [off], ransom," "redeem"), and their cognates. Both terms occur frequently; hence the evidence bearing upon their meaning is copious.

Although both verbs may be used in the sense of deliverance without any necessary reference to the mode (cf. for ga'al, Gen. 48:16; for padha, 1 K. 1:29; Isa. 29:22), yet each, pervasively, has the differentiated meaning "release, by the payment or a price" or "buy back". In Exodus and Leviticus this meaning becomes patent.

One aspect of redemption pertained to the sanctifying of the firstborn mates of humans and animals (Ex. 13:2.12; 22:29ff; cf. Lk. 2:23). The firstborn male was to be devoted or set apart to the Lord. Firstborn clean animals were to be sacrificed on the altar; however, the firstborn of humans and of unclean animals could not be sacrificed. A clean lamb, e.g., redeemed (i.e., was substituted for) an ass, which was an unclean animal (Ex. 13:13; 34:20). If the ass was not redeemed its neck was broken, rendering it useless to its owner. Likewise the firstborn of humans was to be redeemed (Ex. 13:13b, 15). The specified price was five shekels. which was given to the priests (Nu. 18:15ff; cf. 3:44-51). In both cases, therefore, there was the provision of redemption. The idea expressed by these provisions is that a person or an animal set apart to the Lord, and therefore withdrawn from ordinary activity or use because of that consecration, may be recovered or restored by the payment of compensation. In the case of the redemption of the Israelite children whose numbers exceeded that of the Levites, the monetary compensation was called "redemption money" (Heb. kesep happeduyyim, Nu. 3:51).

Another aspect of redemption pertained to special previsions for the redemption of land or other property. The background of these laws was the prohibition against selling the land in perpetuity (Lev. 25:23). Hence a redemption (Heb. ge'ulla, redemption," < ga'al) was to be granted for the land that might pass out of the possession of its owner (v. 24). If a man by reason of poverty sold part of his possession, there were three ways of restoration: (1) a kinsman, (go'el, qal act. part. of ga'al) could redeem or buy back (ga'al) what had been sold (v. 25; cf. go'el in Ruth 2:20; 3:9, 12f.; 4:1, 3, 6, 8, 14); (2) if there was no kinsman to redeem it, the seller himself could redeem the land provided he was financially able to do so (Lev. 25:26ff); (3) if neither of these options was possible, then the land remained the buyer's possession until the Year of Jubilee, when it was returned to the original owner's possession (vv. 10, 28).

There were also provisions for the redemption of a dwelling. For homes within the walls of a city this right extended for only one year from the date of sale; for a house outside the city walls redemption was possible at any time, and the home was to be returned in the Year of Jubilee. Levites could redeem their houses at any time (Lev. 25:29.34). A house or land, that had been set apart to the Lord could be redeemed as well (27:14-25).

Several conclusions derive from this usage. (1) Redemption refers to the recovery of persons or things. (2) A redemption price was necessary for this recovery or restoration. (3) A human intermediary, the go'el, acted to secure the redemption. Summarily speaking, redemption involved the securing of release or recovery by the payment of a price.

In the OT the concept of redemption occurs frequently in reference to the salvation wrought by God for His people. Both Heb. ga'al and pada appear in this connection (cf. ga'al in Ex. 6:6; 15:13; Ps. 107:2; 130:8; Isa. 43:1: 44:22; 63:9; Jer. 31:11; Mic. 4:10; and pada in Dt. 7:8; 9:26; 13:5 [MT 6]; 15:15; 24:18; 2 Sam. 7:23; Ps. 49:7, 15 [MT 8, 16]; Hos. 13:14; Mic. 6:4). These references show that the redemption from Egypt occupies a central place; therefore the import of OT redemption must be derived from this event.

But "redemption" is not merely deliverance; it also reflects on the mode of deliverance: The Exodus was deliverance from foreign bondage. The OT emphasizes this repeatedly. This deliverance was wrought by God's great power and outstretched arm. It is not feasible to suppress the thought of the price paid for this deliverance. The idea of recovery by purchase, which is integral to the Mosaic legislation for the redemption of persons and things, must have influenced the soteric uses of the terms. The stress frequently falls upon the power exerted by God in accomplishing deliverance and on the gratitude and devotion consequently owed by Israel (cf. Ex. 6:6ff; lO:lff; 13:3, 14ff; 19:4-6; 20:22; Dt. 5:6). On several occasions the thought of purchase appears in contexts that are either reminiscent of redemption or expressly allude to it (cf. Ex: 15;16; Dt. 32:6; Ps. 74:2; Isa. 11:11). Isa. 43:3ff states that "Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba have been the substitutionary ransom (Heb. koper, "ransom"; cf. Ps. 49:7 [MT 8]) for Israel. Thus the salvation of the Lord, when conceived of as redemption, is release from bondage by ransom and reflects not merely upon the result but also upon the mode by which the deliverance is wrought.'

As observed above, the intermediary who secures the redemption is called the go'el. This title is frequently ascribed to the Lord in the OT, especially in Isaiah (cf. Job 19:25; Ps. 19;14 [MT 15]; Isa. 41:14; 43:14; 44:6, 24; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7, 26; 54:5, 8; 60;16; 63:16; Jer. 50:34). The merciful provisions associated with the term in the ordinary life of Israel are here carried to the highest level in the relation of God to His people, and the kinsman's action in recovering possession is likened to God's action in salvation. The Isaiahic contexts are replete with references to God's tender care for His heritage, to the almighty power by which He has wrought salvation, and to the security against all adversaries guaranteed by the redemptive relation. Messianic prophecy takes the form of the promise, that a Redeemer, will come to Zion (Isa: 59:20; cf. Rom. 11:26); thus the coming salvation mentioned repeatedly in redemptive terms, is conjoined with the coming of One whose specific role is that of Redeemer.

II. In the NT: The NT terms related to redemption include Gk. lytron,"price of release, ransom." (Mt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45), lytroo, "set free, redeem," "free by paying a ransom." (Lk. 24:21; Tit. 2:14; 1 Pet. 1:18), lytrosis, "ransoming, releasing, redemption," (Lk. 1:68; 2:38; He. 9:12}, lytrotes, "redeemer," (Acts 7:35), apolytrosis, "release, redemption," "state of being redeemed." (Lk. 21:28; Rom. 3:24; 8:23; l Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:7, 14; 4;30; Co1. 1:14; Heb. 9:15; 11:35), exagorazo, "buy, buy up, redeem," (Gal. 3:13; 4:5); agorazo, "buy, purchase." (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; 2 Pet. 2:1; Rev: 5:9; 14:3f.). The central notion of ransom is apparent in lytron and its derivatives, and that of purchase in agorazo and exagorazo.

The NT language of redemption, with few exceptions (cf. Acts 7:35; Eph. 5;16; Co1. 4:5), refers to the salvific work of Christ and to its effect for humanity. The word of Our Lord p1aces beyond question three facts: (I) the work He came to accomplish was one of ransom. (2) the giving of His life was the ransom price, and (3) the ransom was substitutionary in character. As B. B. Warfield said, "This could not fail to determine for His followers their whole conception of the nature of His redemptive work. We cannot be surprised, therefore, to find one of them, echoing His very words describing His work as a giving of Himself as a ransom (antilytron) for all (1 Tim. 2:6)" (Biblical Doctrines [1929]; p. 361). Tit. 2:14 similarly represents Christ's self-giving as having the two-fold design of ransom from all iniquity and the sanctification of the ransomed possession. Peter, with perhaps clearer allusion to the specific character of redemption as ransom by price, writes, "You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things, such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Pet. 1:18ff). The redemptive price here is plainly the blood of Christ. When Paul spoke of redemption through Jesus' blood (Eph. 1:7) the same concept was without doubt in his mind. When he spoke of being "justified through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24), and then specified the propitiation in Jesus' blood (v. 25); the associations of ransom must be regarded as defining the contemplated redemption.

Although the terminology changes in Gal. 3:13; 4:5, the notion of purchase from bondage by the humiliation of Christ is patent, and the redemptive signification is not toned down. Gal. 3:13 states that the enslavement that supplies the need for redemption is "the curse of the law," and in Gal. 4:5 the tutelary bondage of the ceremonial law is in view. The cost to Christ of deliverance is "having become a curse for us", and "made under the law," respectively. The effect is deliverance from both aspects of bondage into the liberty of adoption.

In 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23 the thought is the simple one of purchase by price without mention of the specific price itself. But the context of Paul's teaching leaves no doubt that the price in view is the blood of the Savior. Rev. 5:9 expressly states this, and in order to bring out the verse's full force, Gk. agorazo must be rendered "redeem." The clarity with which redemption by Jesus' blood appears in 5:9 determines the import of the same term in 14:3f. Greek despotes in 2 Pet. 2:1 causes denotative difficulties, but if this title refers to Christ, as the evidence suggests, then the concept of deliverance by purchase is again present. Hebrews 9:12,15 have the associations that are present in other NT passages, namely, the blood of Christ as the way of securing redemption, and the efficacy of redemption for the forgiveness of sin; thus "redemption" here conveys the same meaning.

It is significant that the earliest NT expression of the redemptive hope (Lk. 1:68; 2:38) is construed as deliverance from oppression by alien powers. The faith in Jesus that these earliest witnesses reflect is framed in terms of what was central in OT religion. It is not surprising, therefore, that when the death of Christ comes to be presented as the ransom price by which redemption is secured, this death should be presented as the way of deliverance from the power of the archenemy of God and His people (cf. Jn. 12:31-33; Heb. 2:14ff)."

Redemption is redemption from sin in each of its various aspects. At times one aspect of sin may be in the forefront, coloring the grace of redemption in that instance, but redemption contemplates all phases of the bondage to which sin consigns people. It means deliverance from sin in its guilt, defilement, power, and liability. The comprehensiveness of the, deliverance, that redemption procures and bestows comes, to expression in the eschatological use of the term to designate the consummation of the saving process (Lk. 21:28; Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:14; 4:30; perhaps 1 Cor. 1:30). The basic idea of ransom is not, however, lost in this eschatological use, which serves only to show how closely related to redemption by Jesus' blood is the final fruition of redeeming grace. The glory that awaits the redeemed, the adoption in the consummation of its privileges, and the liberty of the glory of the children of God are ever reminiscent of the purchase price by which they were procured. The efficacy of Christ's precious blood is ever certified in that the attainment of this glory is the day of redemption. (ISBE, 1979, Wm. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI)




Lambert Dolphin
lambert@ldolphin.org
Lambert's Library

April 17, 1996. Revised April 22, 1996. June 16, 2005. March 8, 2006.